Tag Archives: Canticle 18

A kingdom of priests in the meantime

But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ– by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God– not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (Ephesians 2:4-10)

We are what he has made us

In the Daily Office is we read the Scriptures and respond to them. We do not simply listen to the words of God day after day; we speak back to God in words spoken by Christians over the centuries.

So this morning we do not just read Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, where he reminds them that they are “alive together with Christ,” a new creation in Christ by God’s grace.

We also respond to God, saying “Splendor and honor and kingly power are yours by right, O Lord our God.”

That response is in Canticle 18, one of the two appointed for Friday mornings, and it helps us understand why we offer praise.

  • God created everything that is
  • By his will they continue to exist
  • Christ — the Lamb that was slain — has redeemed us for God
  • That redemption is for all people on earth, who rightly offer to God “worship and praise, dominion and splendor, for ever and for evermore.”

We come to understand that through God’s grace we are now the “kingdom of priests” that the Revelation to John describes (Rev. 5:9-13).

Created in Christ Jesus for good works

But we exercise our royal priesthood not just by praising God in the Daily Office, or at the Eucharist, or in our private prayers.

We are a kingdom of priests “created in Christ Jesus for good works.”

Whatever those good works may be, from organized programs to individual acts of charity and kindness, we Christians offer them to people in order to communicate hope.

Our Christian hope comes in large part from knowing that we fit into a larger story of meaning and purpose — what the Collect for Fridays calls “none other than the way of life and peace” (BCP 99).

We serve those who are suffering by entering with them into their experience, and we remind them by our actions that their “way of the cross” is not the end of the story. This is the wisdom of recovery work, for example. We witness to God’s power in our lives by the example of our own suffering and healing.

We serve those who struggle by helping them see how everything is shot through with God’s presence, even when it seems darkest and even if the glimpse we offer is faint.

In the meantime

Ascensiontide, as the Church calls the time between Ascension Day and Pentecost, is an “in-between time” for the first disciples.

Jesus has left them — he “ascended far above the heavens that he might fill all things” (BCP 226) — but it’s not the Day of Pentecost yet, and the disciples haven’t yet received the power of the Holy Spirit that he promised.

Many people around us live in that “in-between time” all the time.

They have lost a spouse or a friend or a job, or they themselves feel lost, and they cannot imagine life any differently. They may have no sense of promise for new relationships or they may feel powerless over their circumstances; they have lost hope.

Like Jesus, we minister most effectively when we enter into people’s lives and show them what transformation can look like. In his incarnation Jesus entered into our human lives, and by his dying and rising he shows us the divine life we are created for.

We are a kingdom of priests in the meantime. We praise God for keeping his promise and we perform the good works we are created for in order to give God’s people (that is, all people) the promise of hope.

Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen. (BCP 226)

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Being ambushed

Strap your sword upon your thigh, O mighty warrior,
in your pride and in your majesty.
Ride out and conquer in the cause of truth
and for the sake of justice. (Psalm 45:3-4)

In this morning’s reading from the book of Joshua, we have the story of the ambush of the city of Ai by the people of Israel. Joshua gives a sign, and the plan goes into action.

When Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city and that the smoke of the city was rising, then they turned back and struck down the men of Ai. And the others came out from the city against them; so they were surrounded by Israelites, some on one side, and some on the other; and Israel struck them down until no one was left who survived or escaped. (Joshua 8:21-22)

It’s a pretty straightforward description of the Israelites’ false retreat successfully drawing out the people from the city, then surprising them with a rearguard cutting the people of Ai off so they could not return to safety.

The only thing that keeps the ambush of Ai from being plain history is that the Israelites attribute their winning to the Lord’s leading.

In the Gospel passage appointed for today, we have the story of a different ambush.

While Jesus was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.” (Matt. 26:47-48)

Again, at the agreed signal, the victim is drawn out and encircled, and the ambush succeeds. But in a plot twist no one expects, Jesus doesn’t resist. “Put your sword back into its place,” he says, “for all who take the sword will die by the sword” (Matt. 26:52). He is taken from the garden by the religious authorities, and he is put to death as a criminal.

The only thing that keeps the arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane from being plain history is that generations of Christians have attributed their living to the Lord’s dying.

The mystery that Jesus reveals is that God does not lead us in ambushing others. God invites us, rather, to follow Jesus, the “Lamb that was slain,” in being ambushed, not “trusting in our own righteousness, but in [God’s] manifold and great mercies” (BCP 337).

A Song to the Lamb (Dignus es)
Revelation 4:11; 5:9-10, 13

Splendor and honor and kingly power *
are yours by right, O Lord our God,
For you created everything that is, *
and by your will they were created and have their being;

And yours by right, O Lamb that was slain, *
for with your blood you have redeemed for God,
From every family, language, people, and nation, *
a kingdom of priests to serve our God.

And so, to him who sits upon the throne, *
and to Christ the Lamb,
Be worship and praise, dominion and splendor, *
for ever and for evermore.

To hear his holy Word

Image by Michael Podesta Graphic Design

Image by Michael Podesta Graphic Design

The Three-Part Office

The Daily Office is structured in three parts: the Invitatory and Psalter, the Lessons, and the Prayers.

Introductory material like we discussed yesterday, and the apparently complicated Daily Office Lectionary, can obscure that three-part structure, but it helps to keep it in mind.

On Sunday, we discussed finding your place and preparing to say the Office. Yesterday, we talked about beginning the Office and praying the Psalms. Today we will focus on the Lessons, the readings from Scripture organized by the lectionary in a two-year cycle.

Tomorrow we will finish this series by looking at the Prayers, especially the Collects, which are so distinctive in our prayer book worship.

The Daily Office Lectionary

On Sunday we looked briefly at the Daily Office Lectionary in order to mark our place with the Psalms and Lessons appointed for the day and the particular Office we were praying.

One of the particular treasures of the Daily Office is that it soaks you in Scripture. You can’t help it — as you follow the Daily Office lectionary, you will read all 150 Psalms every seven weeks, the New Testament in the course of a year, and the Old Testament over the course of two years.

Since the Church Year starts in Advent, a little before the calendar year, the Year Two lectionary for even-numbered years like 2014 starts a little before 2014. We’re now beginning Year Two.

Week of 1 Advent

Tuesday          5,6          *          10,11
Amos 3:1-11          2 Pet. 1:12-21          Matt. 21:12-22

We looked at the Psalms yesterday; remember that the Psalms for Morning Prayer are listed first and those for Evening Prayer second.

There are three Scripture passages appointed for each day — Old Testament (or Apocrypha), New Testament (Acts and the Epistles), and Gospel.

The instructions on BCP 934 suggest that two readings be used in the morning and one in the evening. They also suggest that in Year One, you read the Gospel in the evening and in Year Two in the morning.

So today at Morning Prayer, you will read the lessons from Amos and Matthew. At Evening Prayer, you will read the lesson from 2 Peter.

You’ll notice as you go from day to day that you are doing what is called “course reading” — reading through an entire book over the course of several days or weeks. That means most days you won’t have to move your bookmarks, because you’ll pick up reading where you left off the day before.

Lessons and Canticles

Most Episcopalians are familiar with the way Scripture lessons are read in church on Sunday mornings.

We usually read an Old Testament lesson, say or sing a Psalm, read a New Testament lesson, sing a Gradual Hymn during the Gospel procession, and then hear the Gospel read.

It’s actually not too different in the Daily Office. The pattern in the Office is to read a lesson, then respond with a “canticle,” a song made up of verses from Scripture.

So today, we read the passage from Amos, then read a canticle, read the passage from Matthew, then read another canticle.

If you turn in the service of Morning Prayer to BCP 85, you’ll see that there are 14 canticles printed over the next several pages. How do you know which canticle to read?

MP Canticles

Enter the handy-dandy Daily Office Anchor Society Canticles Bookmarks!

What they do is replicate the tables found at BCP 144 which lay out which canticles to read on any given day of the week. I suggest that you print them out from the Resources page, trim them to size, and tape them into your prayer book at BCP 84 for Morning Prayer and BCP 118 for Evening Prayer.

Since today is Tuesday, after the Old Testament reading we will turn to BCP 90 and read Canticle 13. Like the Invitatory Psalms, the Canticles have been known for centuries by their Latin names. Benedictus es, Domine is Latin for “Blessed are you, Lord.”

After the New Testament reading, we will turn back to BCP 93 and read Canticle 18, A Song to the Lamb.

Just like there are seasonal sentences of Scripture that you could say to begin the Office, there are also seasonal emphases in the Canticles. You’ll notice on Sundays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays on the table above that there are different canticles appointed during Advent, Lent, or Easter. You’ll also see at the bottom of the table that any time there is a Major Feast on the church calendar, you would use Canticles 16 and 21 at Morning Prayer.

It feels like a lot of information, but the pattern for the Lessons is actually pretty simple:

Old Testament reading

Canticle from table

New Testament reading

Canticle from table

The Apostles’ Creed

The last thing we do in the Lessons section of the Office — after hearing God’s holy Word and responding in song — is recite the Apostles’ Creed (BCP 96).

The Apostles’ Creed is the ancient baptismal creed of the Church. When we baptize anyone even today, we renew our own baptismal covenant by reciting the Apostles’ Creed. Every day, morning and evening, we remember our baptism.

In the Daily Offices “we come together in the presence of Almighty God our heavenly Father, to set forth his praise, to hear his holy Word, and to ask, for ourselves and on behalf of others, those things that are necessary for our life and our salvation” (BCP 79).

Tomorrow, we will conclude this series by looking at the Prayers “for ourselves and on behalf of others” which conclude the Office.

It’s still beautiful

Local Hero

The film Local Hero is the story of a Texas oilman sent to Scotland to buy a fishing village so his company can put up a refinery. As the villagers dream about becoming millionaires, the oilman begins to fall in love with the peace and quiet.

The oilman’s Scottish partner, Danny, is also falling in love. Marina is a mysterious figure, a lovely marine biologist with an enigmatic manner.

After the ceilidh celebrating the conclusion of the deal, Danny and Marina are out on the beach looking at the Northern Lights.

Danny: Holy mackerel! What’s happening?
Marina: That’s just the Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis. High-energy protons spilling over into our atmosphere. They get through the magnetic shield where it’s weak, at the poles.
Danny: It’s still beautiful, I don’t care what you call it. How often does this happen?
Marina: Any old time, although it’s best when the sun’s active. That gets the solar wind up and that’s where the protons come from.
Danny: You say the darnedest things, Marina.

We have another Danny in today’s Daily Office readings, and he’s the one saying to God, “You say the darnedest things.”

I heard but could not understand, so I said, “My lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?” He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are to remain secret and sealed until the time of the end. Many shall be purified, cleansed, and refined, but the wicked shall continue to act wickedly. None of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand.” (Daniel 12:8-10)

From our Easter perspective we know the meaning behind the signs. As Julian of Norwich says of Christ, “Know it well; love was his meaning.”

It’s easy to get tangled up and confused in speculations about dates and times and the mechanics of how God acts in history. It’s easy to lose sight of the meaning — God’s love for us, reaching down and remembering us “in our low estate” (Psalm 136:23).

As our first Danny says, “It’s still beautiful, I don’t care what you call it.”

Juxtaposition

The interplay between Scripture readings and the prayers and canticles in the Daily Office sets up resonances in the biblically educated ear.

Take, for example, this morning’s Old Testament lesson and the canticle appointed to be read immediately following.

In the reading from Genesis, we have a vivid picture of murderous jealousy. Joseph, the dreamer, is stripped of his cloak and thrown into a pit by his brothers who “saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, … conspired to kill him” (Gen. 37:18).

After saying “The Word of the Lord; Thanks be to God” we turn back to the service of Morning Prayer and see that Canticle 13 is appointed for Tuesdays.

Glory to you, Lord God of our Fathers; *
You are worthy of praise; glory to you. (BCP 90)

What an enormous gulf there is between our jealousy and God’s glory! The abrupt transition brings that truth home.

The regular patterns — Scripture readings over a two-year period and canticles day by day — mesh in surprising and illuminating ways.

The same thing happens with the New Testament reading: “Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by the world’s standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (1 Cor. 1:26-27).

The Office continues with Canticle 18:

Splendor and honor and kingly power *
are yours by right, O Lord our God.
And yours by right, O Lamb that was slain, *
for with your blood you have redeemed for God,
From every family, language, people, and nation, *
a kingdom of priests to serve our God. (BCP 93)

How little we deserve to be juxtaposed with God’s glory. How little a detail in the Daily Office drives home that truth.